Clyde Thompson had been working as an orderly for only a month and a half when the outbreak burned through the hospital’s corridors like a fire made of flesh and teeth.
“What’s going on?” Mr. Perkins kept asking him.
“I told you I don’t know.”
“Well, God damn it, get me out of here!”
Mr. Perkins’ demand went without reply as Clyde was too distracted by the hellish scenes occurring through the open doorways of the rooms that flew by.
In room 301, two nurses held down a helpless patient to his bed and snacked greedily on his arms and legs—the patient’s heart monitor’s releasing the endless whine of a flat line.
In room 302, a doctor slashed out widely with a scalpel at two approaching patients, blood running from their mouths from the already devoured nurse on the floor.
In room 303, all Clyde saw was blood.
“Oh, heavenly father, have mercy,” Mr. Perkins whispered. He clasped his hands in prayer as Clyde wheeled him down the body ridden hallways. A heavy sweat ran down Clyde’s forehead, resulting from a combination of physical excursion and fear. While Mr. Perkins frail body offered little weight resistance, the still wet blood and other bodily fluids under Clyde’s feet made pushing the wheelchair a considerable challenge.
The right wheel rolled over yet another splayed limb.
“Careful!” Mr. Perkins shouted. “I almost fell out that time.”
It had been several minutes since the old, crippled man’s incessant nagging began to rake across Clyde’s nerves. If it weren’t for the fact that Mr. Perkins’ wheelchair was serving as an effective battering ram to clear his path, Clyde would’ve ditched the old man seven irritating comments ago. But when the steel chair slammed open yet another pair of heavy double doors, Clyde found himself unwilling to let go of the rubber gripped handles.
Once outside, Clyde planned to ditch the old paraplegic and peel out of the parking lot in the first unlocked car he found. He had no desire to hunt for a van with a wheelchair ramp, and carrying the handicapped codger was out of the question. The wheelchair had use. Mr. Perkins did not. Without it, he was merely deadweight, and Clyde had no intentions of being held down. The hospital didn’t pay him nearly enough to continue his job after the end of the world.
Fortunately, Clyde knew the front exit of the building was just beyond the upcoming set of double doors. His hands squeezing the chair’s handles like two constricting pythons, Clyde prepared for the final gauntlet that separated him from escape. He didn’t know exactly what the last obstacle would be, but it was safe to say they wouldn’t be able to simply saunter out the exit.
“Get ready, Mr. Perkins.”
The old man said nothing back as the two slammed through the doors—
—And stopped dead in their tracks.
The situation was worse than Clyde had ever expected. The front doors were gone, completely blocked from view by a horde of the infected. Clyde stood frozen behind Mr. Perkins’ chair, dumbfounded by the extremity of their position. The zombies, as Clyde had come to accept them as, faced the front door but couldn’t seem to find their way out. They shambled against one another, some stumbling into the walls, others bent over and munching on scattered pieces of flesh and viscera.
“Oh, God in heaven,” Mr. Perkins mumbled.
“Shut the hell up!” Clyde’s voice slid through his clenched teeth like a hissing cobra.
But Mr. Perkins ignored the order, clutching at his chest with a clawed hand. “Heart…can’t…take this.”
Clyde’s eyes frantically scanned the lobby. To the left was another corridor, leading down to various examination and operating rooms. The front desk sat adjacent to the exit doors, where a nurse or office assistant usually sat and answered an incessantly ringing phone. Now, the chair sat empty, and a pale skinned armed stretched out from behind the corner of the desk.
No help there.
Clyde looked to his right. A short staircase sat against the wall, where it paused at a platform before winding around and continuing up. Though Clyde knew climbing upward would only lead him further into the overrun building, his eyes still lingered on the staircase. But it wasn’t the stairs that held his attention—it was the decapitated corpse lying face down on the middle platform.
The man was a police officer, or at least he had been until the moment he lost everything above his shoulders. Regardless of the chaotic circumstances, Clyde did not fail to note the irony of the officer’s thick bulletproof vest that had successfully protected his torso. But the vest was hardly of interest—it was what was in the dead man’s sprawled hand that snatched Clyde’s attention:
A Remington 870 pump shotgun.
When not giving the elderly sponge baths or pocketing the occasional bottle of prescription drugs, Clyde’s other interest was guns. He kept a Walther PPS in the glove box of his truck, but that of course was inconveniently tucked away on the other side of the employees’ parking lot. More than once had he cursed the hospital for not allowing him to keep the weapon in his locker. The administration apparently figured Clyde would go on a shooting spree long before the zombie apocalypse.
But lucky for Clyde, there was no bureaucratic red tape that said an officer of the law couldn’t arm himself to the teeth. With that riot gun in hand, Clyde could blow his away right out the front door.
That is, if he could get to it.
Mr. Perkins twisted around in his chair and looked up with wide white eyes. Between two wheezy breaths he asked, “What are we going to do?”
Clyde looked from the old man to the undead mob. The infected in the rear of the gathering had become aware of their living guests and were starting to turn around. The first began to shuffle towards them, soon followed by another and a third.
The time was now.
Clyde returned his gaze to Mr. Perkins.
“Meals on wheels.”
Mr. Perkins gasped as Clyde shoved him forward as hard as he could.
Clyde didn’t wait to see the elderly man collide with the pack of flesh hungry corpses. But as he darted towards the stairs, he could hear everything—the tearing skin, the gushing blood…
He took the stairs two at a time, reaching the cop’s headless body in three quick steps. Snatching the shotgun up from the dead man’s curled fingers, he said a silent prayer as he took aim at his first lurching prey.
Please let there be ammo.
His answer came with a deafening boom.
Even as their undead brethren ripped apart and exploded from Clyde’s unremitting onslaught, the infected continued to take mouthfuls from Mr. Perkins’ neck and shoulders. The distraction was working even better than Clyde had anticipated. All his marks cared about was the free lunch delivered right into their lap.
Clyde pulled the trigger and pumped. Pulled the trigger and pumped. With the infected bent over Mr. Perkins, their heads were in direct line with the barrel of the shotgun, making them the easiest targets.
Still, it took three reloads to finish the job. Fortunately, the headless cop had stuffed his pockets with two full boxes of ammunition. Some of the dead would stagger toward him as Clyde injected more shells into the weapon, but they would never pass the foot of the stairs. By then they were already without their brains, courtesy of the shotgun’s lethal pepper.
In a matter of minutes, the lobby was clear. The only body not splayed across the floor was that of Mr. Perkins, still propped up in his chair. Blood ran down the old man’s neck and soaked the once light green hospital gown. Though his attention had been completely on disposing his enemies, Clyde had caught glances of Mr. Perkins under the scratching hands and tearing teeth. The man had made very few sounds after the first initial screams, only a fluid filled groan bubbling from his lips. Most of his painful death was spent twitching, violent seizures racking his entire body as his life slipped away.
Clyde stared at the half eaten patient. The feeling of the remorse was fleeting at best.
“Better you than me, old man.”
The gruesome aftermath still holding his gaze, Clyde took a step over the headless policeman. He was still grinning at the success of his wheeled diversion when the floor under his foot rolled across the sole of his shoe.
His foot shot forward, propelled by something small and cylinder. Clyde darted his hands out to his sides, releasing the shotgun as he desperately reached for anything to support himself.
But there was nothing. Like a cartoon clown stepping on a banana peel, Clyde flew into the air, legs out in front and chest to the sky.
He was granted a full second of hang time before crashing back onto the stairs.
Somehow, most of his body was spared from the blunt stab of the jagged steps. His legs were still bent upward when he came down, and his curved spine saved the upper part of his back and shoulders. But the same could not be said for the base of his spinal column.
The entirety of Clyde’s body weight fell upon his lower back, the edge of the top stair centered exactly on the bone. A sharp, deep injection of pain punctured his muscles, shooting down his arms and legs. Clyde inhaled to cry out in agony.
The pain was gone.
What was so intense and excruciating had vanished as quickly as it arrived. There was nothing now. No ache, no throb, no burn—nothing.
The breath meant for a scream caught in his lungs.
From his waist down, Clyde could feel nothing.
Craning his head upwards, the orderly looked down to his sprawled, bent legs. He told his right ankle to rotate, his left knee to bend. Though he could still see his appendages, their nerves gave no sign they still resided within. Nothing short of telekinesis would ever move his legs again. The step forward onto the shotgun shell was the last order they would ever take.
Breath coming in short, sharp gasps, Clyde strained his arms to prop himself up on the staircase. His gaze danced around the lobby before him looking for any sort of movement. With the exception of one, all the bodies remained still. And the one beginning to spasm and lift its head was of no concern to the orderly.
The motion was so slight that Clyde’s eyes initially passed over the sitting corpse. But when the elderly man began to moan, Clyde knew he was no longer alone.
The pain filled groan brought with it an initial muscle clenching jolt of panic. The thought that he had somehow missed one of the undead squeezed his heart to a near stop. But when he realized who the moan belonged to, the remaining muscles that still worked instantly relaxed. Mr. Perkins had turned as quickly as any of those bitten before him, but the fact remained that his legs were as useless as Clyde’s.
Bound to that chair, Mr. Perkins presented zero threat.
“Sorry old man,” Clyde said to the ex-patient. “But I don’t see a wheel chair ramp. Guess you won’t be eatin’ today you stupid son of a—
Mr. Perkins stepped up from the chair.
While he crazily flailed for the shotgun, Clyde contemplated what he had just learned about the virus. In resuscitating the recently deceased, it somehow repaired nerve damage as well. If only it weren’t for that little cannibalistic side effect, modern medicine would’ve surely benefited from such a discovery.
Sweat pouring down his forehead in beads, Clyde’s fingertips just barely wrapped around the barrel of the shotgun and pulled it close. Pumping it one last time, he pointed it at the chest of the now walking Mr. Perkins.
“Hope you enjoyed your little stroll.”
He pulled the trigger.
He pulled it again.
And a third time.
His soul shattered a little more with every click.
As Mr. Perkins stepped onto the first stair, Clyde closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Thanks to Mr. Perkins, it looked like he’d up and walking again in no time at all.